Tech giants against data law

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The logo of Amazon is seen at the company's logistics centre in Boves, France, August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Four global tech giants – Facebook, Apple, Alphabet and Amazon – will oppose an Australian law that would require them to provide access to private encrypted data linked to suspected illegal activities, an industry lobby group said yesterday.

Australia in August proposed fines of up to A$10 million ($7.2 million) for institutions and prison terms for individuals who do not comply with a court request to give authorities access to private data.

The government has said the proposed law is needed amid a heightened risk of terror attacks.

Seen as test case as other nations explore similar laws, Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc, Apple Inc and Amazon will jointly lobby lawmakers to amend the bill ahead of a parliamentary vote expected in a few weeks.

“Any kind of attempt by interception agencies, as they are called in the bill, to create tools to weaken encryption is a huge risk to our digital security,” said Lizzie O’Shea, a spokeswoman for the Alliance for a Safe and Secure Internet.

She said the four companies had confirmed their participation in the lobbying effort.

Representatives for the four firms did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A spokeswoman for Australia’s home affairs minister, who is overseeing the legislation, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

If the bill becomes law, Australia would be one of the first nations to impose broad access requirements on technology companies, though others are poised to follow.

The so-called Five Eyes nations, which share intelligence, said last month they would demand access to encrypted emails, text messages and voice communications through legislation.

New Zealand said on Tuesday customs officers now have the authority to compel visitors to hand over passwords for their electronic devices. Tourists who refuse could face fines of NZ$5,000 ($3,292.00).

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